Disclaimer: The following article is an opinion piece by the author. The opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SLR Lounge as a whole.
For as long as I have been shooting, I have always had to contend with “Uncle Bobs” on the wedding day. I have seen it progress from only them to them and 90% of the guests taking photos with their phones. For me, it has never been a big deal, as they rarely affect me doing my job. My belief has always been, if you do not feel you can compete with cell phones and someone who has a nice camera, maybe you shouldn’t be charging money for your services quite yet.
These situations are what we have to deal with as wedding photographers unless you want to beg the couple to have an “unplugged” or “photo free” wedding. Now there is a new “trend” emerging in the industry where vendors are bringing their own cameras, shooting images of the couple and the day, then giving those images to the couple. An extreme case can be found in this recent PetaPixel article which details a recent encounter a wedding photographer had with the DJ who took photos of the entire wedding day and posted all 230 images on Facebook. The incident even had its own hashtag, #Weddingphotogate.
Whose Side Are You On?
While I am sure most of you are going to assume that I completely side with the argument that it shouldn’t be allowed, I am not. In this digital age, I think it is almost impossible to stop other people photographing the wedding, whether it is with a cell phone or a DSLR. I can understand that a wedding vendor may be trying to offer couples something more than the next to stay competitive. We all do it for our businesses. We want to sell ourselves and our work and many times, we are making sure we offer more “stuff” for the couple, to show our value. Other vendors are no different; they want to set themselves apart from the crowd. When you put your photography bias aside, can you really blame them? I do agree that it shouldn’t happen, and frankly a wedding vendor should know better, but at the end of the day, it is what it is.
Regardless if you agree that it should or shouldn’t be allowed, we still have to face reality and understand that it is happening and how we might be able to contend with some commonalities that may arise from it. This article assumes that no vendor will be charging for the images they take or have underlying motives (if they are or do, that is a completely different conversation and an entire article on its own).
Can We Really Stop Them?
Can we really stop other vendors from taking pictures at our weddings and delivering the images to the couple? People point to the exclusivity clause in our contract, but that is something the couple signed, NOT the other vendors. I am not a lawyer, but I am guessing that they cannot be signing on behalf of the other vendors, and we cannot expect the vendors to follow that clause. Sure, we can refuse to shoot for the rest of the day if a vendor breaks the clause, but how is that really going to look to the couple and the guests? My guess is that it will look like a tantrum thrown by a whiny, high maintenance photographer because a nice vendor wanted to offer some additional images to the couple for free.
Also, most exclusivity clauses have the words “paid” and “professional photographer” in them, so if a vendor shows up with an entry to mid-level DSLR and/or is offering the images for free, they could very well not be included in that clause as they do not appear to be professional, and they are not charging for that service. You can see how this gets sticky really quickly, all amidst the wedding festivities.
How Do You Prevent it From Happening?
1. Go Over the Contract With Your Couple
When it comes to this situation, I would say prevention is the best approach; this starts with the couple at the time they are signing your contract. I always go over each section of the contract with the couple, because I understand that most people just sign stuff without looking at multiple pages of solid text. They signed, so they have to abide by it, but it is still an awkward conversation, if something comes up and the couple was “unaware” of it; they usually feel like you should have explained it to them, regardless if it was in the contract.
2. The Exclusivity Clause
I would make sure that you have an exclusivity clause in place, and it is part of the conversation when signing the contract. I also put wording in my contract that if something arises in regards to this issue, it is the couple’s responsibility to deal with the situation. Many may feel that is wrong and that the couple shouldn’t be bothered on their wedding day, but they are the ones who are either paying the vendors or know the guests personally. Those people are much more likely to listen to the couple, than the biased “demanding” photographer. So, please have that conversation, explain this new trend to them, and stress the importance of it not happening at all. Encourage them to talk with their other vendors before the wedding day happens.
What If They Do Show Up, Do We Let Them Shoot? What If They Get In Our Way?
If you’re photographing a wedding, and another vendor begins shooting their own images, should you let them continue shooting? That is on you and whether you want to try and put the kibosh on it. Personally, my belief is let them shoot (within good reason and good taste). If you really think about, most vendors are not there for the entire day and usually only for different portions of the evening. This means they are not capturing the day in its entirety, just pieces of it.
I think in most cases, I won’t ever have an issue contending with a vendor shooting at the same time as me. If a vendor does show up and gets in my way, we now have an issue. I do have a clause that talks about me and my job being limited by interferences. Those can be pretty much anything: unruly guests, guests with cameras, limitations of the venue, limitations of the pastor, vendors, etc. Again, couples know it is their responsibility in how they want to handle it when I bring the situation to their attention. They understand that issues like this not being handled could very well lead to their photos not being the best they can be. Again, this needs to be discussed during the signing of the contract.
What if the Vendor Posts Images Before You Do?
If this happens, you might want to look at your workflow and how you can improve the speed of delivery. As I have stated in the past, I can cull a wedding, proof it and get it ready for uploaded in a few hours. You should be able to do the same. Also, you do not have to post all the proofs from the wedding day on Facebook. It’s just messy. Find your favorite 25-45, edit them, upload them and let everyone know that the couple will be sending the link to the rest of them in the coming days.
What If The Guests Get Confused That The Vendor is the Photographer? Or That His Photos are Mine?
Most people will be able to tell the photographer’s photos from a vendors photos fairly easily. Your quality of work should be miles ahead of theirs and if it isn’t, I default to my original statement that maybe you shouldn’t be charging for your services quite yet.
Also, you will have more from the day (getting ready, flowers, first look, ceremony, etc.). I do believe that people can tell when it is the vendor posting images vs. the photographer. You will both be posting from your respective wedding business pages, which more than likely has what you do in the title of it. The other key difference between you and the vendor is you have the gallery of ALL the images, the vendor will not. Which means that the couple will be sending everyone at the wedding a link to your gallery for ordering, so at some point people will get the clue who the photographer is.
If a vendor shows up and starts photographing the wedding, I say, let it happen but within reason. Obviously, it is up to you on how you handle this situation and whether you “allow” it. I think the biggest piece of the puzzle is having that conversation with the couple at the signing of the contract, set expectations up front, and if the issues does arise how it will be handled. My guess is this will become more and more common. That means we just need to get better and better at what we do in order to deal with these situations, so that no matter who is taking photos at weddings, everyone knows who the professional (and hired) photographer actually is.
What do you think? Comment below.